Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Blog: A Scottish wander... Dun da Ghaoithe

(I wrote this while up in Scotland but couldn't get the photos from my phone to my ipad, I'm now back home so I've put it all together. I apologise for the photo quality, they're all from my Galaxy S4. I hope you enjoy the blog post! -Paul)

I'm currently on a visit to Oban, seeing my sister and some of the beautiful Scottish countryside. I've been yearning to be back in Scotland after a visit last year and this trip couldn't have come at better time. There's been perfect blue skies, stunning sunsets and plenty of coffee - what more could a hillwalker want?! Cake... Oh yeah!

We were lucky enough to have a good forecast and one of Jenny's days off coincide, a quick check of the CalMac ferry timetable and we were good to go! 

We grabbed the 8.00am crossing from Oban to Craignure for a very reasonable £7.85 each (return), at this time of year the sun rises at about 8.20 so we were able to catch the sunrise from the ferry. Cool Autumnal air, crisp sea air and the sun just sneaking past the clouds on the horizon... A perfect start to a day on the hill?

The sunrise from the back of the ferry to Craignure, Mull.

We reached Craignure at 8.50, after a quick double check of food, water and sensible clothing we were ready to head off, turning left out of the port we had 2km of road to quick march before we started to ascend a gravel track which leads to 2 rather large and scary masts before branching to the right and reaching the last mast and the end of the track. After a few miles of gravel track and a climb to 540m from 0 we were ready for the proper walking to begin.

One of my favourites. Sun battles cloud!

A spooky mast appears in the fog.

We'd been surrounded by cloud all the way up and were beginning to wonder why we were continuing to climb with no sign of it relenting. We had a quick banana break and decided we should continue up as the forecast had predicted sun from 10am till 1pm, us Rickards ain't quitters either!

After a steep climb from the end of the track to a pile of rocks at 556m we were met with one of the most breathtaking views I've had from hillwalking, the cloud disappeared, blue skies appeared and we could see snow topped mountains, cloud inversions and the sea everywhere... Sometimes it's worth it to keep plodding through the cloud! 

From this position we had our first real view of the walk and the ridge, stretching out in to the distance with wisps of cloud and blue skies there was a stunning view of ascent, fake summit (754m, with a trig point and rather large cairn) and the real summit at 766m. The second highest point on Mull, the only Corbett and some of the best views around due to its prominence and location on the island.

The views above the cloud well worth the trek through it, snow topped mountains in the distance.

Although we were the only souls around, the popularity of this walk and mountain in the summer have caused erosion and a path has formed from the last mast up to the summit itself, while this increases the accessibility and allows more people to experience the beautiful views and the joy of walking it also tarnishes the hillside, we decided to follow the path loosely and wander through the taller grasses and boggy bits. 

The view from the fake summit, marked by a trig point.

A short flat section leads to a steep climb up to the fake summit, from here there are some great views over Mull, up to Ben Nevis and towards the other islands, plus the ridge itself. There's a drop of about 70m from the fake summit before climbing up to the real one, from here there's stunning views over Western Scotland and islands, with some beautiful snowy mountains in the distance! We found shelter behind the cairn on top and had a quick lunch before heading back the way we came, the wind had picked up dramatically with the temperature dropping suddenly, a quick shower of wet snow meant we made a quick descent with the view of Oban keeping us motivated before dropping back into cloud and back on to the gravel track (knees didn't approve).

The descent was far quicker than the ascent and we were back on the road in no time, 2km back to Craignure and we were just in time for the 3pm ferry back to Oban and the pub! 

Selfie at the top with the Ben in the background (promise he's there)

A few key stats...

Start point: Craignure ferry port
Total route length: 9 miles, 15km
Route style: There and back
Total ascent: 843m
Highest point: Dun da Ghaoithe, 766m
Total time: 5-6 hours

The sunset caused a lovely glow, seen here on the ferry back, a truly stunning day in the mountains.

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